Having a surplus of apples in my kitchen, I decided the first recipe out of my new Maida Heatter cookbook would figure them in as a primary ingredient, so the Apple Kuchen was a natural choice. Kuchen (pronounced koo-kən; think “kooky”) is the German word for “cake,” and there are many variations on it, even some with more pie-like properties. I’m a firm believer in coffee cake, and this is a delectable dessert or breakfast that’s made for coffee or tea, an old world comfort food that’s best eaten the day it’s made. And don’t be swayed by the number of ingredients and steps…it’s really quite simple to make.
Maida Heatter’s Apple Kuchen (8-10 portions)
1/3 c. currants (or raisins)
1 1/4 c. sifted flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 400 and butter and 9 x 13 pan.
Place the currants or raisins in a small strainer over a saucepan of shallow boiling water. Cover and let steam for 3-5 min. Remove from heat and set aside.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
In a small bowl, stir the egg just to mix and stir in the milk. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork just until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan–it will be a thin layer. Sprinkle with the currants and nuts and set aside.
4 medium-large apples (MH suggests Rome Beauties or Delicious. I used Granny Smith.)
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
Peel, quarter, and core apples. Cut each quarter into about 6 very thin wedges. Place them, overlapping, in three rows down the length of the cake. If there is space in-between rows, fill with additional apples.
Melt the butter and brush over the apples. Mix sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the butter. Cover loosely with a cookie sheet or aluminum foil.
Bake for 35 minutes, removing cookie sheet or foil for the last 5 minutes. Prepare glaze.
1/2 c. apricot preserves
2 T. sugar
In a small saucepan over moderate heat, stir together preserves and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring, for 3 minutes. Immediately brush over apples. Serve while warm or room temp.
From Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, published 1965.
I made this kuchen for a road trip to Conway, a little town just south of Mt. Vernon, about an hour north of Seattle. I rode up with Liv, Kim, and Mary, and we stopped at Pam’s place before heading up to Bellingham’s Whatcom Art Museum, which was showcasing a favorite artist of ours, John Grade. Click on the first link to read about his lastest installation work, The Elephant Bed. Even if you can’t go see it, the concept is quite mind-bending. If you can go see it, do.
After viewing the excellent exhibits, we headed back to Conway. All of us met a couple years ago in an art class, and we’ve been friends and mentors for each other ever since. Pam made Jasmine tea and we cut into the kuchen, and for a moment time was still within a moment shared, telling stories, giving advice, smacking our lips on the cake*…great friends and artists looking ahead to a new decade, and I, pleased that my first excursion with the great Maida Heatter, was a delicious success.
*with apologies to Kim, for having to abstain from the kuchen, because of my forgetting that ol’ nut allergy. I’m always embarrassed when I forget such things, so in the interest of resolutions for a new decade, I aspire to be a more conscious preparer.